Covid, cancer can't stop Mrs Santa Claus in Brazil

Belo Horizonte (Brazil) (AFP) –


Despite the coronavirus pandemic and her recent battle with cancer, Fatima Sanson was determined to keep her Christmas tradition of dressing up as Mrs Claus and giving out toys and hugs to impoverished kids.

So the 61-year-old made herself a plastic "hug curtain," found an assistant to disinfect it between embraces, dressed up in her bright red suit, and set up her annual toy and food giveaway in a poor neighborhood in Belo Horizonte, in southeastern Brazil.

"It felt so good to be able to give hugs again during the pandemic," said Sanson, who has spent nearly five decades doing charitable work in impoverished areas.

She was all too aware of the risk involved this year.

Not only does her age put her in the high-risk group for Covid-19, but the pandemic began just as she was coming off a fight with breast cancer.

Brazil has the second-highest Covid-19 death toll worldwide, after the United States, with more than 178,000 people killed.

But neither the virus nor the protective layer of plastic got in the way as Sanson spread her Christmas cheer to her young public.

"I really liked getting a nice, warm hug from Mrs Claus," said one of the children, Daphne Victoria.

Parents for their part took home baskets full of food -- especially welcome this year, given that low-income workers have been hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic.

"I hope better days are coming and that next year we'll be able to give real hugs, be able to feel that human warmth that everyone's been missing," said one mother at the charitable event, house cleaner Valmira Pereira.

"It's so good to hug and be hugged. We're 'infecting' each other with our hugs, our affection, our love," she said.